Jack Grealish said he has “never looked back” after switching his allegiance from Ireland‘s youth squads to joining England‘s Under-21s, when a bizarre bathroom incident — in which he collapsed as a teenager — led the Englishman to join Ireland.
The 25-year-old played 19 times for Ireland at Under-17, Under-18 and Under-21 level before turning down the chance to represent the senior squad in 2015. A year later, he made his debut for England’s Under-21 but only earned his first full cap in September 2020.
Grealish’s rapid ascent at Aston Villa had continued with his country, where he impressed during England’s two Euro 2020 warm-up games against Austria and Romania to the extent he is pushing to start Sunday’s Group D opener against Croatia.
When asked by ESPN whether his presence in the squad vindicated the decision to leave Ireland behind, Grealish said: “When I was young, I was 15 I think, I got asked to play for England and Ireland at a tournament. I got asked to play for both. I went away with England, I was in my room and I collapsed the day before we were meant to be training. I got sent home and during that time I went to Ireland to trial there.
“I played and I just loved it and that’s the one thing I’ve always said: when you’re younger, you just do what makes you happy and I loved every moment that I had there.
“I was just a young kid enjoying my football and then as I got older, I started playing at Villa in the first team, I broke through, and there was a time ‘obviously I am English, my parents were born in England, I was obviously born in England so I feel English.’ I changed to England and since then I’ve never looked back. I’ve enjoyed every moment that I’ve had here. Obviously I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t.”
Pushed on how serious the incident was, he added: “I don’t even know. I was just in the bathroom, I just woke up on the floor. I don’t know if was nerves or whatever, I’m not actually too sure. The next day I was fine, ready to go and train but for medical reasons I couldn’t.”
Kane ended the Premier League campaign with the Golden Boot after scoring 23 goals for Tottenham Hotspur but missed out on the individual awards as Ruben Dias won the Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year and Kevin de Bruyne was named Players’ Player.
“I speak to him a lot,” the midfielder said. “I speak to everyone in the changing room. It’s good when you come away with England to get different opinions from people and see what they do and don’t do.
“But there’s no better person to look at than Harry Kane and see how he looks after himself and stuff like that. For me, it’s a reason why he’s at the top of his game. He’s had one of the best Premier League seasons I’ve ever seen. He’s right up there and I’m quite surprised he hasn’t won more awards.”